Dana Crowley Jack offers startling new insights into the roots of female depression as she illuminates why women are far more likely than men to suffer major depression in adulthood. Silencing the Self is the first sweeping overview of depression in women that draws on new understandings of the importance of relationships in women’s lives. Attending closely to what depressed women have to say about their lives, Jack reframes major concepts of depression, freeing them from traditional models that have restricted our ability to listen to women’s perspectives on depression.
Jack weaves these voices of depressed women directly into her discussion, providing new meanings to familiar themes: dependence, pleasing, anger, goodness, low self-esteem. These women clearly articulate a no-win, either/or tension in their lives, a tension between sacrificing their own needs in order to preserve a relationship and acting on their needs and feelings at the risk of losing the relationship. Their stories bring to light the “activity required to be passive”—the way women actively silence themselves in order to cultivate and maintain intimate relationships. To accommodate, they learn to censor themselves, to devalue their experience, to repress anger, to be silent. Examining moral themes in depressed women’s narratives, Jack demonstrates how internalized cultural expectations of feminine goodness affect women’s behavior in relationships and precipitate the plunge into depression. In a brilliant synthesis, Jack draws on myth and fairy tale for metaphors to further the understanding of depressed women.
Silencing the Self makes a major contribution to the psychology of women by drawing from the recent literature on women’s relational self and detailing its relevance to female depression. This insightful approach to the dynamic of female depression forges new pathways to self-change, therapy, and research.
Silencing the Self raises questions as fascinating as the answers it offers… What I found most compelling was the women’s own voices. The conflicts and losses depressed women describe are different not only in degree from those felt by women who are not clinically depressed. That is why this book is relevant to anyone grappling with the central challenge of relationships: how to achieve connections to others without losing oneself.
In a field much given to ranting, [Dana Jack’s] is a practical approach, and especially welcome for that reason. She provides factual information about the depressed women she has studied, and gives ample scope to their voices too. In an appendix, she even offers a questionnaire… The impression Silencing the Self leaves is of compassion geared to good sense. It is a serious book, advancing an argument of intrinsic significance.
Jack’s thorough, just, and tough-minded critique of the literature on depression shows how our very methodology has served to ‘silence’ women’s selves, in spite of evidence for the accuracy of their experiential reports. Instead of accepting conventional definitions of ‘passivity,’ ‘dependence,’ and the like—many of which serve to denigrate women—Jack elucidates the women’s own meanings for these terms. This is a very important book.
Jack’s study undoes some of the treachery [clinically depressed] women have endured by simply calling its name. And regardless of how much we believe things may have changed, the ravaged voices finally speaking in Silencing the Self are testimony otherwise.
In Silencing the Self, Jack points out that women’s legitimate needs for intimacy have too often been negatively perceived as expressions of dependency. Resultant ‘self-silencing’ behavior—like the suppression of anger in relationships—often triggers the plunge of depression. The voices of Jack’s former patients provide dynamic and hands-on proof of her compelling thesis.
Dana Crowley Jack offers new hypotheses [about women’s depression] based on data gleaned from an intensive, longitudinal study of twelve clinically depressed women. Attending closely to the metaphors of loss and self-reproach these women use to describe their lives and their intimate relationships, Jack identifies a ‘loss of self’ as the most salient feature of female depression… [A] dazzling array of insights… [Jack] has provided a lucid and valuable book.
- 256 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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